Advanced

Landscape history confounds the ability of the NDVI to detect fine-scale variation in grassland communities

Löfgren, Oskar LU ; Prentice, Honor C. LU ; Moeckel, Thomas LU ; Schmid, Barbara C. LU and Hall, Karin LU (2018) In Methods in Ecology and Evolution 9(9). p.2009-2018
Abstract

The NDVI is a remotely sensed vegetation index that is frequently used in ecological studies. There is, however, a lack of studies that evaluate the ability of the NDVI to detect fine-scale variation in grassland plant community composition and species richness. Ellenberg indicators characterize the environmental preferences of plant species—and community-mean Ellenberg values have been used to explore the environmental drivers of community assembly. We used variation partitioning to test the ability of satellite-based NDVI to explain community-mean Ellenberg nutrient (mN) and moisture (mF) indices, and the richness of habitat-specialist species in dry grasslands of different ages. The grasslands represent a gradient of decreasing soil... (More)

The NDVI is a remotely sensed vegetation index that is frequently used in ecological studies. There is, however, a lack of studies that evaluate the ability of the NDVI to detect fine-scale variation in grassland plant community composition and species richness. Ellenberg indicators characterize the environmental preferences of plant species—and community-mean Ellenberg values have been used to explore the environmental drivers of community assembly. We used variation partitioning to test the ability of satellite-based NDVI to explain community-mean Ellenberg nutrient (mN) and moisture (mF) indices, and the richness of habitat-specialist species in dry grasslands of different ages. The grasslands represent a gradient of decreasing soil nutrient status. If community composition is determined by the responses of individual species to the underlying environmental conditions and if, at the same time, community composition determines the optical characteristics of the vegetation canopy, then positive relationships between the NDVI and mN and mF are expected. Many grassland specialists are intolerant of nutrient-rich soils. If specialist richness is negatively related to soil-nutrient levels, then a negative association between the NDVI and specialist richness is expected. However, because grassland community composition is not only influenced by abiotic variables but also by other spatial and temporal drivers, we included spatial variables and grassland age in the statistical analyses. The NDVI explained the majority of the variation in mF, and also contributed to a substantial proportion of the variation in mN. However, variation in specialist richness and the lowest values of mN were explained by grassland age and spatial variables—but were poorly explained by the NDVI. Synthesis and applications. The NDVI showed a good ability to detect variation in plant community composition, and should provide a valuable tool for assessing fine-scale environmental variation in grasslands or for monitoring changes in grassland habitat properties. However, because the concentration of grassland specialists not only depends on environmental variables but also on the age and spatial context of the grasslands, the NDVI is unlikely to allow the identification of grasslands with high numbers of specialist species.

(Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Ellenberg indicator values, grassland specialists, Moran's eigenvector maps, plant species richness, remote sensing, semi-natural grasslands
in
Methods in Ecology and Evolution
volume
9
issue
9
pages
10 pages
publisher
British Ecology Society / John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
external identifiers
  • scopus:85052800984
ISSN
2041-210X
DOI
10.1111/2041-210X.13036
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
b8a11ee7-14de-4284-929b-fe130bc17ca6
date added to LUP
2018-09-17 12:12:47
date last changed
2019-02-20 11:27:11
@article{b8a11ee7-14de-4284-929b-fe130bc17ca6,
  abstract     = {<p>The NDVI is a remotely sensed vegetation index that is frequently used in ecological studies. There is, however, a lack of studies that evaluate the ability of the NDVI to detect fine-scale variation in grassland plant community composition and species richness. Ellenberg indicators characterize the environmental preferences of plant species—and community-mean Ellenberg values have been used to explore the environmental drivers of community assembly. We used variation partitioning to test the ability of satellite-based NDVI to explain community-mean Ellenberg nutrient (mN) and moisture (mF) indices, and the richness of habitat-specialist species in dry grasslands of different ages. The grasslands represent a gradient of decreasing soil nutrient status. If community composition is determined by the responses of individual species to the underlying environmental conditions and if, at the same time, community composition determines the optical characteristics of the vegetation canopy, then positive relationships between the NDVI and mN and mF are expected. Many grassland specialists are intolerant of nutrient-rich soils. If specialist richness is negatively related to soil-nutrient levels, then a negative association between the NDVI and specialist richness is expected. However, because grassland community composition is not only influenced by abiotic variables but also by other spatial and temporal drivers, we included spatial variables and grassland age in the statistical analyses. The NDVI explained the majority of the variation in mF, and also contributed to a substantial proportion of the variation in mN. However, variation in specialist richness and the lowest values of mN were explained by grassland age and spatial variables—but were poorly explained by the NDVI. Synthesis and applications. The NDVI showed a good ability to detect variation in plant community composition, and should provide a valuable tool for assessing fine-scale environmental variation in grasslands or for monitoring changes in grassland habitat properties. However, because the concentration of grassland specialists not only depends on environmental variables but also on the age and spatial context of the grasslands, the NDVI is unlikely to allow the identification of grasslands with high numbers of specialist species.</p>},
  author       = {Löfgren, Oskar and Prentice, Honor C. and Moeckel, Thomas and Schmid, Barbara C. and Hall, Karin},
  issn         = {2041-210X},
  keyword      = {Ellenberg indicator values,grassland specialists,Moran's eigenvector maps,plant species richness,remote sensing,semi-natural grasslands},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {09},
  number       = {9},
  pages        = {2009--2018},
  publisher    = {British Ecology Society / John Wiley & Sons, Inc.},
  series       = {Methods in Ecology and Evolution},
  title        = {Landscape history confounds the ability of the NDVI to detect fine-scale variation in grassland communities},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13036},
  volume       = {9},
  year         = {2018},
}